Parents and Teenagers at Odds: Until I Get Away

In any fight or disagreement, there’s a disconnection. Somewhere among the words and actions being tossed about, there’s at least a little misunderstanding which acts as the catalyst. This is true for large wars and petty fights between children.

I’m sure we can all remember a time where we were yelled at by an adult as a child for something we didn’t understand. Maybe it was the adult who didn’t understand and what we remember is a sense of injustice.

That’s where this poem comes from. Inspired by frustrations between my parents and myself, it describes that feeling of injustice. This poem was written on October 16th, 2004. I was 14-years-old and a freshman in high school.

Until I Get Away

There will always be you

There will always be me

But are we a family?

is it just me?

Is it just you?

Is it just something I’ve forgotten to do?

_

Maybe I’m just blind

Maybe I’ve lost my mind

Is it my teenage personality?

Every night I go to bed

saying “it isn’t me.”

Yes, I see it; we’re a family

I trust you and you trust me

Is this all that we need?

_

I’m confused and you’re disappointed

You’re mad but we’re not fighting

We see things differently, that’s all

I will never see your way

so, for today, I’ll take it

Until I get away


 

This is one of those poems I fear publishing because I worry the impression will be that it’s written by a petty, ignorant teenager. When I was in high school the realities of stress and depression were often self-medicated with drug use, sexual promiscuity and suicide. A teenagers feelings, no matter how ridiculous and small compared to the rest of the world are still a reality for them.They’re validated and deserve to be taken seriously. They have no way of knowing how petty their worries are because they’ve never experienced the world beyond high school.

This photo, “Caution: Teenagers” is copyright (c) 2014 CGP Grey and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The first section of this poem asks if two people who seem so opposite can actually be considered a family. This was probably born out of a frustrating argument with my parents where I felt misunderstood. Of course we are a family. Being different from each other, no matter how extreme those differences may seem sometimes, can’t erase that fact. In that moment, I had to wonder. I think I imagined I would fit in with my family more easily if I was different, if I liked sports instead of video games, for example, or American landmarks instead of world travel.

This is a ridiculous concept, which I immediately realize in the next section, declaring, “it isn’t me.” That is to say, being me did not make me any more or less a part of the family. I wonder again if being a teenager has plagued me like some horrible illness, making me act in a way I otherwise wouldn’t. Honestly, I fell like adults throw the “you’re just being a teenager” card around too much. That phrase alone seems to discredit any feeling or opinion a teenager may have. No wonder teens are often depicted as angry, frustrated individuals.

This poem does not provide a real answer to the questions of family and teenage personalities. Instead, it comes to a conclusion these frustrations would be less, or at least less intense, if I wasn’t around so often. When I  say “until I get away,” I’m talking about college. I understood that such an experience would give me the freedom to be exactly who I wanted to be without frustrating my parents. It also meant that when I did seem my parents, our interaction would be different. I’d be more independent and have more life experience. Just like that, my opinions and actions wouldn’t appear quite as ignorant as they did before.

Such a transition didn’t happen overnight, but here in Chicagoland, I can say I have a great relationship with my Iowan parents. The distance can be hard sometimes, but I think it also makes us closer in a way. It has helped them realize I am a responsible adult. Much of that ignorance they saw in me as a teenager is gone.

How often did you fight with your parents as a teenager? Did you ever imagine you’re parents’ life could be easier if they had a child other than you? Do you think the petty feelings of teenagers deserve more respect that we currently give?

Advertisements

33 thoughts on “Parents and Teenagers at Odds: Until I Get Away”

  1. I think it was Mark Twain who said something like: “Between the ages of 17 and 25 my father made great gains in intelligence”

    I found that to be true too.

    1. That’s probably a true statement for many. Those are the years where most are finally given the freedom to find out all the ins and outs of adulthood.

  2. Oh god, my parents and I fought so much when I was a teenager. I come from a “broken home” that was patched up with duct tape and rubber bands to form two different “blended families.”

    My point is, that sort of environment tends to engender a lot of hostility from the kids, and with me being the oldest kid, and one of the only two who actually was there for every remarriage and divorce, I was unhappy. I was also a smart kid, but I kind of hated everything, so I rebelled like crazy.

    I ran away from my father’s house several times and eventually made it back to my mother’s house (which was in another state.) I ran away from my mother’s house several times before wandering back home to have a fight waiting for me. I moved out at 18.

    All that grandiose acting up aside, I do think the “petty” feelings of teenagers deserve more respect. They’re just as real as any other person’s feelings. And to be honest, I pumped out more music in a month as a teenager than I have in the last entire year, so they’re clearly not stupid. They’re capable of having points and capable of expressing them. Throwing their feelings under the bus because of their age is as ignorant as the teenager seems to the adult.

    1. A feeling of instability can certainly bring out hostility in teenagers. I just wish adults would stop explaining away how teenagers feel. Their issues are only petty because they don’t understand the real world yet. They can’t until they’re let loose into it. What adults often perceive as petty usually is very serious to teenagers. They deserve to have their feelings treated with respect as much as anyone else.

  3. Wow, that summed my teenager-y feelings perfect. Growing up I had two older sisters and a younger one, so I can tell you from experience more children does not make life easier. It is a different kind of hard, competing for attention is no fun. I often questioned what made a family, and my parents often disregarded what I said, based solely on the fact that I was a teenager. I could know nothing of the world because of my age. But as I look back on my teenage years I realize at times I was overly dramatic, but the angst-y feelings of such trying time of change should not be ignored or blatantly dismissed like many parents do.

    1. I only had one sibling, but I felt that disconnect too. I was always artistic, interested in art, writing and culture. I participated in speech and wrote poetry but my parents’s loved cars and sports, both things they had in common with my younger brother. You can’t help but feel like an outsider in that situation. Young or otherwise, you just know that you’re different.

  4. It’s a tough place to be : the teenage. i look back and remember the many arguments I had with my mother on religion and God, she is amazingly religious. I questioned everything and did not always find answers.
    Today, my son stands on the very threshold of the teens and yes, I wonder what the next few years will be like. I hope during those days when we argue and see things differently, I will have the maturity to remember his view matters and his opinions are not petty. thank you for this sharing. I hope lots of parents read this, it’s a great reminder to treat your teens as adults.

    1. Those must have been hard arguments with your mom. How much of that carried into your adulthood. I remember arguing about various interests I had that my parents constantly said I would grow out of. Years later, Is till hold many of those interests and opinions.

      1. Oh yes, the arguments were hard and would often last late into the night as both my mom and I are equally stubborn. But she did let me think as I wanted and with the years, I have come to appreciate her point of view. Some of my views have changed, others have remained. I think what I remember happily about those arguments is that I got an opportunity to think my stance through; so I was fairly sure of my values and opinions as I stepped out into the outside world. Luckily, for me those are days I look back upon with fondness, I hope my children will too.

  5. The truth of the matter is, where you’re a teenager, you’re already forming as a young adult emotionally and physically, and have adult-like feelings and thoughts. That mixed with naivety, tend to make you feel like you know it all. It’s difficult feeling like an adult when you’re trapped in a kid’s body. We like to think we know what’s best for ourselves, especially at that age, when we have so much to prove.The future is everything to a kid, it’s what we put so much work and effort into preparing for. But when you’re young, when it comes down to it, what is really important is whatever is happening “now.”

    I had strict, overprotective parents, which got in the way of what I wanted too many times to count. Looking back on it now, though, I’m glad it happened that way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I were similar with my own kids if/when I have any.

    1. You’re exactly right. That’s why telling a teenager “you’ll understand when you’re older” is a terrible excuse. What’s important is what’s happening in that moment and by saying that, you’re just making them feel disrespected.

      I think my parents were strict as well, but I’ve seem parents who were far stricter. There is definitely a balance there. Too much can be just as damaging as too little.

  6. I often wondered when I was a teenager how my families lives would be better if they had had another child other than me. I remember hearing stories when I was young about how my mom had a miscarriage then they were going to adopt but then they found out they were going to have me. I’m sure it was to make me feel special and loved. But I felt like the consolation prize.

    Years later after working 3 years with at risk youth…often teens who have acted out on their feelings in poor ways and found their way to a treatment facility…aka low security juvy. Often times their every day feelings get overlooked (which happens to “normal” teens too) and they are told it’s just normal teenage stuff. Which just leads them to rebel more.

    1. I had those same thoughts, wondering how everyone’s lives would be better if they had a child other than me. That’s a dangerous road to go down.

  7. I think so much depends on the particular teen and the particular parents. I know there’s teens that run wild because their parents can’t be bothered to be, I dunno, parents, and on the other end of the spectrum you have my parents – they seemed to think that the crime rate in semi-rural Iowa was the same as in the south side of Chicago and acted accordingly. Also, just by being female I was automatically at risk of being pregnant (never mind that I was a virgin).

    First I tried to be rational and explain to them that I knew myself and what I needed and give them some polite, proactive suggestions on how to better parent me. Mom just shook her head, “No, no,” and refused to even engage with what I was saying. So I gave up trying to effect positive change. After this, I fought with my parents so, so, much, and even now, over 10 years later, I look back with the knowledge that at 16, I knew better how to be my own parent than my parents did.

    So all I can do at this point is to try to be aware of and fix my broken from those years at my parents’ house, and make DAMN sure I’m a better parent than my parents were. Not a real high bar I know, but nevertheless that’s my goal.

    1. Don’t even get me started on the topic of sex and pregnancy. My father once told me he and my mother would get a divorce if I got pregnant. He said she’d insist on helping me raise it, he’d insist on giving it up for adoption and that their inability to compromise would end the marriage. Never mind that I was a virgin, too! I just remember thinking, who do you think I am? I had no intention of having sex at that point. Maybe if they would have had a serious discussion with me about the ins and outs of sex at my age, I would have had the opportunity to speak my opinions and assure them I had no intention of having sex before the age of 18.

      I criticize the way my parents were a lot, but they were actually really good. They did their best with the knowledge they had. I think all parents go into the process a little blind. The success of many parenting tactics depends on the personality of the child.

      1. “I think all parents go into the process a little blind.”

        Oh of course! But it’s the parents that willfully remain blind and refuse to learn who are legitimately bad parents.

  8. I argued with my mom a lot. She had this terrible habit of telling me how my life was going to be and treating me like a baby. I never held conversations with my dad. He loves me and all and we’re cool, it just wasn’t a thing that happened when I saw him.

    I don’t think my parent’s lives would have been any easier if they didn’t have me. They failed at life way before my sister and I came into the picture. It’s like they never learned how to be decent human beings and become upstanding parts of society. My mom has an excuse, she was massively abused as a child. I suppose the Vietnam War messed my dad up.

    I don’t think my feelings as a teen were petty considering how they affected me mentally and I’d probably be more well rounded if anyone that raised me cared about my feelings at all. No worries though, I was always there for me when I needed someone and I love myself very much ❤

    1. That’s a good way to be, though. Loving ourselves is important. Too many teens out there harbor so much self hate, that they can feel completely alone when they think the world has abandoned them.

  9. Another great post. Having gone through it all and out the other side, from both sides, my thoughts are this: I still think my parents were bad at parenting in certain respects, although fine in others. They tried their best but they did not have the capacity to understand others, let alone me.

    I am not a perfect parent but with one of my children, her placid nature means I am a good enough parent that we hardly ever fight. With my other child, I did not have the capacity to understand or to stop the fights. BUT the fights were probably down to my behaviour. I felt pressured by others to try to “stop” my child behaving in a certain way, when she was just trying to be herself. I should have made it more clear that I accepted her for being the person she was. We do not fight any more. Partly because she has grown out of her hormones and anger and confusion. But also partly because I am less controlling and more relaxed.

    1. Isn’t that all being a teenager is? A Confusing mix of hormones and anger. It’s hard on teenagers but I think it’s equally hard on parents. They always want to help, but it can be hard to tell, based on the child’s personality, what will do good and what won’t.

  10. The plight of teenagers is so often horribly understated and misunderstood by parents who are “too busy” with their own lives. So many problems could be avoided with some attention and understanding (not always of course).

    I fought frequently with my parents, when they were paying attention, I’m sure I wasn’t an easy kid to deal with, especially compared to my sister. I wouldn’t go back to being a teenager for anything

    1. I didn’t fight with my parents much. I kept all that negativity on the inside and released it on paper. So, in a way, I was an easy kid to care for. But those dark emotions gnawed at me. I considered dangerous actions because of them, but the pen and paper always saved me.

      I remember when a group came to our school to promote buying a class ring. “You can go back to college as much as you want, but you only graduate high school once,” they said. I laughed. The first thing I did when I got out of that hell hole was to block out those four years from my mind. I wouldn’t go back there if you paid me a million dollars.

  11. I am a 22 year old woman and I am still having these fights.. because of this: ”I will never see your way

    so, for today, I’ll take it

    Until I get away”

    1. yep. It’s just something you get to deal with. I slowly learned to ignore certain comments that would always make me mad. That way, the house remained peaceful until I could move into my own place. Overall, I think it was a good skill to learn.

  12. That is what I am focusing on. I am using all of my energy on myself and working hard on getting my own place. Thank you for a great poem

    1. You’re welcome. I think that’s important at any stage in life. We are all unique and should focus on what makes us authentically our own.

  13. “How often did you fight with your parents as a teenager? Did you ever imagine you’re parents’ life could be easier if they had a child other than you? Do you think the petty feelings of teenagers deserve more respect that we currently give?”

    Most of my fights with my mother didn’t happen till I was in my twenties. My mother also raised two other kids which caused more trouble than I did, but the plain fact is, raising children is not easy. My mother had to do it all because my father certainly didn’t help. I don’t respect petty feelings of teenagers any more or less than I would another with the same feelings at a different age. I don’t think it is right to assume that someone’s feelings don’t matter because they are “just a teenager”. That is an insult and a form of ageism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s